Koontz Tries to Hide From ‘Hideaway’ : Movies: The author has tried and failed to get his name removed from the film’s credits. The director defends his work: The film ‘follows the main plot of the novel.’


It is one of the most common complaints in Hollywood: a best-selling novelist sells a book to a studio and then alarm bells go off when the script appears to be veering from the book.

Tom Clancy, for example, lashed out at the makers of “Patriot Games,” fuming that out of some 200 scenes in the script, only one corresponded to his novel. And fright writer Stephen King received a $3.4-million settlement from the producers of “The Lawnmower Man” after claiming there was a “perverse and striking dissimilarity” between the movie and his short story upon which it was based.

Now, author Dean R. Koontz has tried and failed to get his name removed from the credits of TriStar Pictures’ new thriller, “Hideaway”--prompting director Brett Leonard to defend his work, strongly maintaining that the film “follows the main plot of the novel.”


Koontz abruptly walked out of a preview screening of “Hideaway” last November and dashed off a letter to TriStar President Marc Platt, asking that his name be removed from the credits and that the title be changed, saying it “only dimly resembles my novel.”

Koontz’s attempt to distance himself from the film forms part of a remarkable series of letters he sent to TriStar executives over a nine-month period in 1994 in which he expressed mounting concern over the project.

In a Nov. 10 letter sent after the screening, Koontz wrote that if the studio insisted on keeping the title, it should be retitled “Brett Leonard’s Hideaway” to distinguish it from Koontz’s book.

“We asked repeatedly (to remove my name) and tried to reach an agreement,” Koontz said in an interview this week. “We never were able to reach an agreement. I feel sorry about that.” The credits now read: “Based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz.”

For his part, Leonard has expressed puzzlement at Koontz’s reaction to the film, which is being released nationwide today.

“It’s not a mirror image (of the novel),” Leonard said, “but it definitely is an adaptation that follows the main plot of the novel. Certain characters were changed, but all the main characters in the book are in the movie. It’s very reflective of the novel.


“In the preview screenings we had,” Leonard added, “the majority of people who had read the book thought that the movie was fairly faithful to the book.”

Leonard was also director of “The Lawnmower Man” but was not part of King’s dispute over that film.


Koontz, the Orange County author who has written numerous bestsellers, said he understands that filmmakers have every right to do what they please with a book that they buy.

“I’m not saying anybody did a bad thing here,” Koontz said in an interview. “Everybody has their own vision. Everybody had the right to make a picture they wanted to make. They bought it. All my argument is about is, if this is what it is going to be, then please, disassociate me from it.”

“Hideaway” is the story of a man named Hatch Harrison (Jeff Goldblum) who is psychically linked to a serial killer who threatens to murder Hatch’s wife (Christine Lahti) and daughter. The script was written by Andrew Kevin Walker and Neal Jimenez. Leonard is adamant that he had no part in writing the screenplay.

Koontz said one deviation from his book is the daughter. “The central character in the book is a 10-year-old disabled girl. She doesn’t exist in the movie. This is like taking the character Scout from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ You can do that, but you don’t have the same story anymore.”


The movie was greenlighted by TriStar chief Mike Medavoy and developed by then-senior vice president of production at TriStar Cathy Lingg and producer Kathleen Summers. Medavoy and Lingg subsequently departed TriStar and Summers is no longer listed as a producer on the credits.

In February of last year, Koontz wrote TriStar that former studio executives had given him a “handshake guarantee that (the film) would be treated as an A-level thriller, with no involvement of people with horror-film experience.”

Over the following months, Koontz became increasingly concerned about the movie’s reflection of his book.

In a March 9 letter, Koontz wrote that the shooting script was “astonishingly incoherent, filled with contradictions and moronic logic, peopled by physicians who talk silly baby talk about medical science and with policemen who are too thunderingly stupid to investigate and arrest a man--Hatch--who seems to be and acts like a serial killer.”

He added that the script version that prompted his letter “seems to have been written by someone who is no more a writer than Jeffrey Dahmer is a gourmet chef.”

As for the November screening, Leonard recalled that Koontz had barely started watching the film when he got up and left. “He didn’t watch it through the end of the first act.”


Koontz had a different recollection. “I was there 45 minutes and have since seen the whole (movie),” Koontz told The Times. “I stand by my opinion.”

Studio officials declined to be interviewed for this story.

Koontz, meanwhile, said he was “very upset” that someone had leaked his letters to news organizations. “My letters are private,” he said. “Marc (Platt) has promised me this is not a ploy to generate controversy to promote the picture. That is the last thing I want.”